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Study Tips You Need to Know – DanSensei English Podcast
Listening is a great way to improve your listening skills and your English in general because it will help you naturally pick up new language and grammar in context. It is a very important skill to develop and listening to podcasts is a great way to do that.
That’s one of the main reasons I started this podcast. I want to give English learners a chance to listen to a podcast that is designed for them and that is interesting and fun. No one wants to listen to a podcast about grammar, right?
In this episode, I talk about my story and how I learned Japanese and how I wish I had done things differently. I also answer some questions from the live chat.
My Language Learning Journey
I am not the best language learner in the world. When I was in school, I hated learning languages.
I didn’t really understand why it would be useful for me to know another language. I wasn’t motivated at all and I found everything really boring. I guess most school kids feel this way. The only reason I learned French and Spanish is because they made me. Shockingly, I can’t remember a single thing about those languages.
However, when I got older and decided to move to Japan, I decided to try and learn Japanese. It has been the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life.
I had taken some lessons before moving to Japan but when I arrived here, I basically knew nothing. I couldn’t communicate. I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t survive.
That’s when I decided I had to take language learning seriously. I got some textbooks and I started to teach myself Japanese.
After 6 years, I am able to function in most daily life conversations and my life is much better because I can understand what is happening around me and communicate with people. However, I made a lot of mistakes along the way…
Don’t make the same mistakes as me.
Teaching yourself a language is a very tricky thing to do.
How do you actually learn a language? What do you need to study first? What is the best thing for me to study next? These are all things that I had to learn the hard way.
Even though I can speak Japanese, my Japanese is not good and after 6 years of studying, it should be way better than it is. This is because I learned things in a really ineffective way and wasted a lot of time and energy.
I basically learned one phrase at a time and tried to use them to talk to anyone who would listen. This is not bad, but I developed a lot of bad habits, because most people don’t correct you when you speak to them. I also tried to learn by listening to others, but this is hard when you don’t have the vocabulary and grammar foundations to build on.
Learning vocabulary is the best place to start
If I was going to learn a new language, I would do things differently…
The first thing I would do is learn the core vocabulary. Each language has a list of core words that you should know in that language.
In English, the core vocabulary list is 3000 words and this will help you understand about 90% of the English you will encounter in your daily life.
3000 words might seem a lot of words to try and learn, but it is not as bad as you might think. If you study 10 new words every day, you will be done within a year. Learning 10 new words a day is not going to take much more than 10 minutes of your time.
10 minutes a day for less than a year to understand 90% of the English I will encounter sounds like a good deal to me.
You can see the core vocabulary list here: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/wordlists/oxford3000-5000
What is the best way to remember what you have studied?
This is a very important question that I had. I think I have found a great solution to this problem.
If you are like me, you study new words, but then in like a week, they have completely disappeared from your memory and you need to learn them again.
I used to repeat this cycle over and over again. It was so frustrating. That’s when I found an application called ANKI.
ANKI is basically a flash card system that will help you to learn new words but will also help you remember the words you have already learned. It will bring back words you have studied already just before you are about to forget them so you can refresh your memory.
It is the most powerful tool I have ever used to help me learn vocabulary. If you want to know more about this, I have a full article all about it. Check it out: Getting Started With ANKI – The Easiest Way To Learn Vocabulary
Study Smarter, Not Harder!
No matter what English challenge is at hand, the Study Hacks Guide will help. I’ll give you strategies that will make studying less stressful and more exciting.
Input is Important – even if you can’t understand it.
When learning a new language, inputting as much of it as you can is a great idea.
When you started learning your native language, you didn’t use textbooks and apps. You just spent the first 2 years of your life listening.
The same thing is true when learning a new language. However as adults, we feel the need to understand everything. This makes it very difficult to actually read or listen to something in the language you are learning.
It is too easy to stop what you are doing and check the dictionary for the word that you couldn’t understand, but that means you need to stop listening to do that. You need to get used to not understanding.
If you can listen to something in English and be OK with only understanding 20-30% of it, and just let your brain soak up the English like a sponge, you will make very quick progress in your studies. Try to find something you are interested in and watch videos or listen to podcasts about that topic in English and you will be surprised how quickly your brain will pick things up.
What about output? I want to use the language!
I feel the exact same way.
The reason I want to learn a language is to communicate with people. I don’t really care about learning the language. It is just a tool to help me communicate.
There are a few things you can do to get the ball rolling.
You could try shadowing, which is a very powerful technique that will help you master pronunciation, word stress and intonation. Check out my guide: Improve your Speaking By Shadowing
Another thing you can do is record a short audio diary using your smart phone. Talk about your day or something that is interesting to you. Listen back to the recording and you will start to see when you need to improve and you will be able to make progress.
Finally, you could try talking to native speakers using the internet, study groups or online lessons. The possibilities are endless.
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